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The cousins
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It was a typical Sunday family dinner, all of us fresh from our churches and gathered together for the sake of being together. Conversation bubbled over in six or seven different conversations, a cacophony of various pitches. No one really listens to anyone at these dinners.

"How did your ball game go yesterday?" I asked 10-year-old Tripp as he touched me on the back when he walked up to the island on which all the food was set.

"We played real good," he replied casually, taking a biscuit and examining it as kids do. "But we lost." He is a talented quarterback with a remarkable arm, a quick mind and an undeniable inner drive.

His eight-year-old first cousin, Bree, came running up, her blonde hair aimed every which a way as usual. "Did you bring Dew Drop?" She loves our newest dachshund who is tiny and will always weigh exactly half of what Dixie Dew weighed.

"No. I'm sorry." I was mashing butter, sour cream and cheese into my baked potato.

"I really need to see her."

"Then, you can come home with me." In a matter of minutes, her cousin, Tyla, also eight, decided she would join us then when Aslyn, Bree's twin, discovered she would be left with no playmates, she unenthusiastically agreed to come.

This is to explain how I wound up with three eight-year-old girls climbing atop bales of hay in our barn on a Sunday afternoon.

It was a busy afternoon on the Rondarosa.

Tink was on an urgent call to the set of a movie he had written, one of our horses was suffering with an abscess on his hoof. I discovered that lack of rain hurts more than the crops; the ground was so hard from a weeks' long drought that it had caused an abrasion which festered.

One by one the cats, Kentucky, Tennessee, Tuscaloosa and Clemson, sauntered in and were captured in hugs by the delighted girls while Dew Drop and Biscuit, the rescue puppy I pulled from a drain when an ice storm was coming, was wrestling and aggravating each other.

We have a fairly nice barn. It has three stalls, a large tack closet and a sitting area that we put together with an incredibly comfortable sofa, cushioned rocking chair, a small stereo and a tall, hideous cabinet that came with Tink.

It is so ugly that it is actually rustic and vintage looking and fits in rather well with the cedar paneling. It is my favorite place to write or read. Sometimes I push open the heavy barn door and sit on the sofa, looking out on the porch. Other times, I close all the doors and cuddle up on the sofa.

In the midst of working on Rondy's hoof (this is the horse that arrived named Jake, but Tink renamed after one of General Grant's favorite horses, I still believe that a horse born in Mississippi shouldn't suffer such an indignity), I was caught unexpectedly by a memory.

The chaos faded away as I smelled the hay and the dirt always wrought by barns and heard the giggles of three little girls as they sat atop an old handmade quilt on a high stack of hay.

Three cousins. Like Gail and Wanda and me. On a Sunday afternoon decades ago. In the darkened loft of our grandfather's barn, sitting on bales of hay as Gail, the oldest by several years, spun ghost stories that terrified us into squeals.

We all talk about how times have changed and sad it is. Then, suddenly out of nowhere, sprang up a remembrance that comforted me in knowing that not everything has changed. Three little girls had gone to Sunday School, church, dinner with family, changed into play clothes from their Sunday dresses, then climbed atop the bales of hay for merriment and laughter.

Just like three little girls I knew so many years ago.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of What Southern Women Know. Visit to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.